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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: The State of the Profession
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0730.  Tuesday, 9 October 1996.

(1)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Oct 1996 23:43:00 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0726 Re: The State of the Profession

(2)     From:   Paul Hawkins <
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        Date:   Monday, 7 Oct 1996 19:34:57 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   the state of the profession

(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 07 Oct 1996 21:23:31 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Monday, 07 Oct 1996 22:30:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0726  Re: The State of the Profession


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Oct 1996 23:43:00 +0100
Subject: 7.0726 Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0726 Re: The State of the Profession

I suppose it all comes back to what Ed Bonahue means by "materialist". I
presume that if he thinks that there is a materialist account of Literature, or
Shakespearean texts, he would need to explain how he manages to separate the
position from which he views them from what, I take him to be suggesting is
some "intrinsic" value which he seems to assume they possess.  Even F.R.Leavis,
rabidly anti-theoretical though he was, had the wit to realize that "there is a
value implicit in the realizing".

Is Bonahoe's red-necked parade of manifestly political prejudice just another
case of terminological profligacy?  Or is this just another example of playing
with terms...as in "we're all materialists now, but we don't really need either
to investigate what the term means, or what impact that statement might have on
our critical practice(s)".   Unless he is prepared to give us some idea of what
he means by "materialist", then I'm not sure we can really understand what he
says, least of all his confused coat-trailing.

Come back Florence Amit, all is forgiven

John Drakakis

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Hawkins <
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Date:           Monday, 7 Oct 1996 19:34:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        the state of the profession

To Gabriel Egan:

When you write that in criticizing texts, "everyone has an axe to grind," are
you expressing a simple truth, or are you grinding an axe?  If the former, then
your statement is patently false.  If the latter, then your statement need not
command anyone's belief.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 07 Oct 1996 21:23:31 -0400
Subject: 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0716  Re: The State of the Profession

Gabriel Egan writes concerning my injudicious use of words:

>Of course I consider "humanitarian actions" to be a rather woolly and
>patronizing way of looking at it. The poor are not simply misfortunates to be
>helped, but part of an economic process in which we are all located.

Patronizing?  I wonder who's patronizing whom, and I wonder who's woolly. I am
actually located in Cincinnati, not in an economic process. People are only
figuratively placed in a process. We may live by metaphors, but our thinking is
sometimes rendered woolly by their use.  Beware of the "dark currents of
ideology"!

Egan claims that I will have to accept that Marx's books "did, at certain
times," radicalize the masses.  Well, no, I don't have to accept this.  As Kurt
Vonnegut cynically points out, books definitely do NOT radicalize the masses.
That's why we have a free press in the US.  It's not a danger to the status
quo.  The masses may never be radicalized, and, if they are, they are
radicalized by a complex of issues, etc., not by a select number of
books--heaven forfend!

Egan goes on (tongue in cheek, I gather):

>My objection is to the passive model of consumption of books like they were
>medicine. And that's why theory courses should be compulsory (to draw in your
>line from another thread). How else am I going to fill students full of
>politics?

I reply:

When a student signs up for a course in literary theory, she may expect
reasonably to be taught about literary theory--not about politics.  Is it a
good policy to mislead one's students? I don't think so.  My advice (gratis)
is:  If you want to teach politics, get a degree in political science, and
teach in the Department of Political Science.  Then you can legitimately pour
political theory into the empty vessels sitting before you.

Self-righteously, I remain, Bill Godshalk

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Monday, 07 Oct 1996 22:30:57 -0400
Subject: 7.0726  Re: The State of the Profession
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0726  Re: The State of the Profession

When asked:

>"Why does he teach English instead of political science or philosophy, if
>that's what really interests him?"

Gabriel Egan responds:

>You'd have to show me the difference before I could answer.

A very interesting answer.  I teach a course in which I have students read
Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and other perhaps-less-well-known writers like
Ernest Becker.  Why is this course listed under English rather than Biology,
Political Science, Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, and Social Science? I suppose
because I don't ask my students to read Darwin for his contribution to biology,
but as a literary text.  We are more interested in things like form and
rhetoric, significant variations in sentence structure, metaphors--which are
different from an interest in evolution and genetics. In fact, the purpose of
the course is to provide students with a background to twentieth century
imaginative literature--like plays, poems, novels.

Could Gabriel see a difference among teaching ballet, portrait painting,
acting, costume designing, and Pynchon?  These are all courses taught at some,
if not all, American universities.  Or is ALL teaching really the same?  Is all
teaching a political activity--and the same in kind?

If so, Gabriel's point seems rather reductive. And others might insist on a
different adjective to replace "political."  For example, "all teaching is
absurd."

I personally hope that Gabriel is correct when he says that the more educated a
student becomes, the more left wing that student becomes. Of course, as a
cynical old man, I wouldn't bet my pay check on it. But, if it is true, you can
see why American conservatives don't want to support university education!

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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